Middle East: UN-backed reconstruction efforts set to kick-off in Gaza next week

Heavily damaged buildings in Gaza. Photo: UNRWA Archives/Shareef Sarhan

21 November 2014 – The next phase in reconstruction efforts for war-ravaged Gaza is slated to begin as early as next week following an updated “understanding” between Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders, the United Nations special envoy in the region has announced.

In a statement released today, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, hailed what called a “further understanding” to the trilateral agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Government of National Consensus, and the UN, permitting some 25,000 home owners in Gaza to access building materials for the repair of their homes damaged in the recent 51-day conflict there.

“They will be able to procure the materials to repair or rebuild their properties in the same locations where they were located prior to the conflict,” Mr. Serry explained in his statement, adding that special precautions are also being implemented to avoid any misuse of the UN-backed reconstruction mechanism or diversion of materials for belligerent purposes.

“Materials procured under the mechanism may only be used for their intended purpose,” he continued. “The United Nations will undertake spot checks to monitor compliance.”

According to a recent UN assessment, as it stands now, over 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, affecting more than 600,000 people. Many people still lack access to the municipal water network. Blackouts of up to 18 hours per day are common.

In addition, the violence killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, and more than 70 Israelis.

Mr. Serry emphasized the UN’s commitment to assisting the Palestinian Government of National Consensus in its reconstruction efforts through direct financial support to homeowners in need. But, he added, existing resources were largely insufficient, particularly as pledges made at last month’s Cairo International Conference and amounting to about $2.1 billion were slow to arrive.

“The Special Coordinator calls on all parties concerned to lend their full support to enable the mechanism to operate at the required scale in the interests of the affected population in Gaza,” the statement said.

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